Japan to punish online insults with sentences of up to a year in prison in order to deal with harassment on the internet. A bill passed by Parliament in mid-June will come into effect from tomorrow and contemplates more severe punishments for those who insult other people. The new legislation will impose a maximum sentence of one year in prison or a fine of 300,000 yen (2,170 euros) to those found responsible.
The new law was passed after the death of hana kimuraa wrestler and reality show star, Terrace Housewho committed suicide in 2020. Kimura was harassed earlier that year when thousands of users launched racist insults and criticism due to an episode of the TV series. The 22-year-old fighter he fell into a deep depression and committed suicide on May 23, 2020, one day after posting the insults he received on his social networks.
The death of Hana Kimura lit red lights in the Japanese government, who promised to speed up the debate and amend legislation. In April 2021 Parliament passed a bill for help victims to identify their stalkers in a simpler way. Before its passage, the process for suing someone was tedious and involved multiple steps.
Legislators also promised to review the penalties. Prior to the most recent law, the penalties for insulting someone were 10,000 yen (72 euros) or 30 days in prison. In the case of Hana Kimura, two men were fined 9,000 yen for harassing the actress. This sanction sparked criticism and the Legislative Council recommended to the Minister of Justice that they toughen the punishments.
Japan’s law would violate freedom of expression
The approval of this law is not without controversy, since some warn that could limit freedom of expression. Opposition lawmakers expressed their discontent, since any criticism of the government would be punished. Given this, the Ministry of Justice established that it is considered an insult to publicly degrade someone’s social position without referring to specific facts.
Legal experts say that the new law is ambiguousTherefore, specific parameters must be defined to identify and process true harassment. The legislation will be reviewed in three years to measure whether there is an impact on freedom of expression.
Japan is not the only country where online insults are punished. The United Kingdom has a law that penalizes offensive messages in the media. The Section 127 of the Communications Actapproved in 2003, contemplates sentences of up to six months in prison for those who send “extremely offensive messages, of an indecent, obscene or threatening nature”.
As in Japan, the law is somewhat ambiguous and regards offenses as improper use of the public electronic communications network. The most recent case is that of a man sentenced to 18 months of supervision for making fun of the death of a soldier on Twitter.